One of the truly great pleasures of a small cafe or restaurant is being in the presence of people who love what they do. Pop into Daily Dose and you'll likely find co-owner Sarkis Vartanian working the counter. Ask him about the daily sandwich special and a small plate of beef kebab might arrive at your table (gratis). Mention the accompaniment for the scone and you'll learn that the macerated grapes come from his mother's garden, while the sauce is a persimmon syrup and blueberry-red wine reduction. This is a man with an eye for detail, a fetish for "local" and a boundless desire to share it all. The focus is precise, but the sandwiches at Daily Dose are delicious and sloppy in the best possible way.
Located near Church & State in an area of downtown L.A. where the rents are thoroughly gentrified but the amenities are not, you have to walk down a narrow, bricklined alley to reach Daily Dose. Sitting in the "courtyard," with its reclaimed woods tables and rickety chairs, you might be in another city, perhaps another continent. It's a hideaway within a hideaway, boasting all the charm of a San Francisco coffee shop without any of the pretension.
The menu at Daily Dose is short and simple -- half-a-dozen sandwiches, roasted vegetables, a few grains, salad, a daily soup, a couple pastries -- but the results are layered and complex. For such a small menu, great sandwiches abound: The Hoffa made with bresaola, The Butcher with sopressata, Mike The Mechanic, a sandwich anchored by mortadella and named for Vartanian's father. The signature sandwich, however, is The Farmer, a spectacular riot of color, flavor an texture.
Too often, the vegetarian sandwich is defined by what it is not. Nothing is missing in The Farmer. Served on soft but sturdy 8-grain bread, it's bolstered by roasted fingerling potatoes (hot carb-on-carb action!) and a slab of tomato that even in the middle of winter tastes sweet thanks to Vartanian's hydroponic grower. The kick comes from eggplant and squash puree brightened with almond pesto and a hit of sweet, barely spicy ancho chili jam. In between it all is a generous bed of burrata.
If you want to impress a potential employer or a seduce new lover, if you like to look graceful when eating, this is the wrong sandwich. One bite and the burrata will ooze joyously between your fingers, the potatoes will squirm out of the bread. This is a robust sandwich, a messy sandwich, a vegetarian sandwich meaty enough to be the dream of any omnivore.
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Elina Shatkin is a staff writer at LA Weekly. Follow her at @elinashatkin or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.